How to diagnose pink eye

A doctor can often determine whether a virus, bacterium, or allergen is causing the conjunctivitis (pink eye) based on patient history, symptoms, and an examination of the eye. Conjunctivitis always involves eye redness or swelling, but it also has other symptoms that can vary depending on the cause. These symptoms can help a healthcare professional diagnose the cause of conjunctivitis. However, it can sometimes be difficult to make a firm diagnosis because some symptoms are the same no matter the cause.

It can also sometimes be difficult to determine the cause without doing laboratory testing. Although not routinely done, your healthcare provider may collect a sample of eye discharge from the infected eye and send it to the laboratory to help them determine which form of infection you have and how best to treat it.

Viral Conjunctivitis

How to diagnose pink eye

The cause is likely a virus if

  • conjunctivitis accompanies a common cold or respiratory tract infection, and
  • discharge from the eye is watery rather than thick

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

The cause may be bacterial if

  • conjunctivitis occurs at the same time as an ear infection
  • occurs shortly after birth
  • discharge from the eye is thick rather than watery

Allergic Conjunctivitis

The cause is likely allergic if

  • conjunctivitis occurs seasonally when pollen counts are high
  • the patient’s eyes itch intensely
  • it occurs with other signs of allergic disease, such as hay fever, asthma, or eczema

How to diagnose pink eye

Turning pink is very flattering, but not if it is your eyes that are becoming pink! Pink eye is a serious symptom that could have grave complications if not treated.

What is a pink eye?

Pink eye also is known as conjunctivitis, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the transparent membrane that lines the inside of your eyelids and the apparent (white) part of your eye globe.

How does the eye become pink?

The conjunctiva is transparent, so the underlying blood vessels are more visible when they are dilated due to inflammation. This makes the whites of our eyes look pinkish or reddish.

What are the symptoms of pink eye?

Apart from appearing pinkish, pink eye causes other symptoms in one or both eyes, that may include:

  1. Itchiness
  2. Grittiness
  3. Discharge that may turn into a crust overnight.
  4. Excessive tearing.
  5. Burning eyes
  6. Blurry vision
  7. Sensitivity to lights.
  8. What are the pink eye causes?

Pink eye causes are either infectious or inflammatory.

  • Infectious means that the pink eye is microbial.
  • Inflammatory means something non-microbial.

What are the 7 main pink eye causes?

  • Viral infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergic reactions
  • Chemical splatter in the eye.
  • Sand granules or foreign bodies in the eye.
  • Irritants like soap, dirt, pollution, and chlorine in pool waters.
  • In some cases, especially in newborns, it could be due to tear duct blockage.

When should you visit an ophthalmologist?

If pink eye is all about your eyes turning pink, then there would be no problem, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

Pink eye may seem like a small harmless problem at first, but in fact, it is not. So, if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms you must visit your ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

And if the pink eye cause was due to chemical splatter, then you must go to the ER immediately.

How do doctors diagnose pink eye causes?

Not all reddish, irritated, swollen eyes are conjunctivitis. There are many other causes of pink eyes. In order to properly diagnose and treat pink eyes, the doctor must first examine the whole eye to exclude other diseases like sty, chalazion or inflammation of the skin of the eyelids (blepharitis).

At first, your ophthalmologist will ask about your symptoms, how long have you been complaining about it? is it your first time or is it recurrent? Is it related to change of seasons? Are you a smoker? Have you been recently diagnosed with an STD? are you a swimmer?

Then an eye exam is mandatory, your doctor will use a cotton swab to take a sample of the fluid that fills the inside of your eyelids. This sample is then sent to a lab to detect the exact pink eye cause, whether it is microbial (viral, bacterial, fungal) or not.

If it is microbial, then it might be contagious and you may be advised to stay home to avoid infecting anyone else.

How to treat pink eye causes?

Pink eye treatment depends mainly on the cause and relieving the accompanying symptoms.

So according to the cause, your doctor will lay out the treatment plan.

  • Viral pink eye causes: the most common viral cause of pink eye is the common cold virus. As it lasts from one to two weeks, it is highly contagious and staying home is the best remedy. And remember, antibiotics are not the answer here.
  • Bacterial pink eye: But if bacteria is the pink eye cause, then antibiotics depending on the type of the bacteria the first line of defense.

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics in the form of eyedrops, eye ointments or even as an oral pill. You will apply the eyedrops 3-4 times a day, for at least 7 days. If you are on ointments, it is best to use it overnight. If you are on pills then you must finish the whole antibiotic course as prescribed. It is mandatory to follow your doctor’s instructions word by word.

  • Treatment of irritative pink eye: if some chemical like dish soap got into your eyes then you must rinse them immediately and thoroughly for at least 5 minutes. Your eyes should be better after a maximum of 3 hours. If it doesn’t improve seek medical help at once.

If something corrosive splashes into your eyes like bleaches and acids, rinse your eyes with a copious amount of water and reach out to the ER instantly.

  • Allergic pink eye: if the allergy is due to seasonal changes then staying home and extra care of your eyes are your best way to avoid it.

Avoiding the antigen aka the allergy trigger is your best line of defense.

If you can’t avoid it, then antihistaminic eyedrops are your best option. But take care of oral antihistaminic may worsen the case not improve it.

If chlorine in pool water is the cause of your pink eye, then avoid chlorinated water, or wear swimming goggles to avoid chlorinated water from entering your eyes and causing conjunctivitis.

  • If it is due to windy climate or sandy ones, then wearing protective goggles when you are in the open air is crucial to avoid a pink eye.

What are the complications of pink eye causes?

Depending on the cause of the pink eye, the complication could be related to the primary cause and/or it may cause direct injury to the cornea and affect your vision permanently if left untreated.

What is Magrabi’s advice concerning pink eyes?

Although many people don’t consider pink eyes as a serious problem, its cause may be. And leaving a pink eye without medical attention may have severe implications on your vision. Seeking an ophthalmologist whenever you complain of pink eyes is mandatory to keep your vision intact and the whites of your eyes, white.

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